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I was nineteen years old when I married for the first time, my husband seven years older. A whirlwind courtship that had us agreeing to marry within a week. I had few expectations of what a partner should bring into the marriage, and even less of an idea of what would make a good mate. "The first year is the hardest, so be prepared," my employer told me. The same sentiment was echoed by friends and relatives, after they got over their shock.

I couldn't figure out what they were talking about. As far as I could tell, marriage was kind of like a slumber party (lots of late night chatting and junk food), but with sex. When my husband said he didn't like something, I didn't do it anymore. We rarely fought, because I almost never thought my opinions were worth expressing, much less worth defending. But the habits set in the first year were too hard to break once I realized that I did have my own opinions, often at odds with those of my husband. We were never partners so much as roomies, and had never felt as though the apartment we shared was really 'home'. Our marriage disintegrated, much to the disappointment of us both.

At 29, I married again. So many little details cropped up that I had forgotten had ever been questioned in my first marriage. Hellmans or Miracle Whip? Sumatran or Costa Rican coffee? What time should we go to bed? Wake up? How should we handle inviting over guests--was someone arriving unexpectedly okay, or to be discouraged? How late should people call?

This time, I fought every decision. Nothing was too minor to discuss. My husband was worn out, walking on eggshells, afraid of angering me with the slightest statement before we realized what the problem was. I was so protective of my still-new sense of independence that I lost any ability to compromise gracefully.

"Hey, I love you, no matter what your taste in mayonaise. None of that matters. If we have to, we'll buy both kinds. But you've got to remember that I love you. That's the primary thing. And alongside it, I'll never do anything to try to hurt you. If it seems that way, well then, we need to talk and get things clarified," my husband wrapped his arms around me and whispered in my ear.

Finally, I was home.